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Transform a single image into a montage with clipping masks and layer styles

Added on Tuesday 28th of March 2006 01:10 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Creating a montage requires finding multiple images to fit your needs as well as a lot of precise selections. Then, you need to piece it all together so it appears well balanced, unified, and seamless. Instead of all that hassle, we’ll show you how to take one great image and use clipping masks and layer styles to produce the same great montage effects.


To create a montage from a single image with the help of clipping masks and layer styles, we’ll:

     Explain the functionality of a clipping mask so you’ll be up to speed on the masking tool.

     Show you how to set up the specific layers that you’ll need for this technique.

     Describe the ways you can apply a clipping mask to isolate imagery for this montage.

     Demonstrate how to enhance your layers with layer styles for added color and dimension.


If you’ve ever created a montage, you know how time-consuming it can be to edit each image to accommodate your layout. But what if you only have one image to work with? We’ll show you how to avoid the frustration of editing multiple images for a montage and get creative with the one you’ve got. With our technique, you can use clipping masks and layer styles to create a great montage, as illustrated in Figure A.





Clipping Mask, what’s your function?

Clipping masks are slightly less intuitive to use than their layer mask counterparts. When working with layers, it’s common understanding that pixel information on an upper layer blocks out the corresponding pixel information on the layer below it. However, with a clipping mask it’s the opposite, in that the transparent pixels of the bottom layer, (base layer) mask the contents of the upper layer.


Prepare the layers

For this technique, we’ll use a total of four clipping masks. We want to preserve the background layer, so we’ll copy the background layer four times, and set up the clipping mask layer for each one. To get started with this technique, download the file from the URL at the beginning of this article and extract the file liberty.psd. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


To duplicate and rename the layers:

1.       Duplicate the Background layer four times so you have a total of four copies and one background layer.

2.      From top to bottom, rename the new Background copy layers Lady Liberty, Text, Flag, and Middle. Your layers palette should look like ours in Figure B.



Important: It’s imperative that you set up your layers exactly as ours throughout the technique or you won’t get the same results.





To set up the layers for the clipping masks:

1.       Select the Background layer and click the Create A New Layer button create_new at the base of the Layers palette.

2.      Name the new layer Middle Fill.

3.      Select the Middle layer, click the Create A New Layer button, and name the new layer Custom Shape.

4.      Select the Flag layer and click the Create A New Layer button, but don’t worry about renaming it, since the text we’ll add to it later will rename it.

5.      Select the Text layer, click the Create A New Layer button, and name the new layer Statue. Your layers palette should look like ours in Figure C.



Add the clipping masks

The next step is to add the clipping masks. We’ll go through the four different clipping mask layers and apply a different clipping mask for each one, as well as define the area to be masked. But first, we’ll set up the background layer.


To set the background layer:

1.       Turn off the visibility for all the layers except for the Background layer.

2.      Double-click on the Background layer to display the New Layer dialog box.

3.      Enter Background in the Name text box and 30 in the Opacity text box. Click OK.

4.      Create a new layer and name it White Fill.

5.      Move the White Fill layer below the Background layer in the Layers Palette.

6.      Fill the White Fill layer with white.


To add a clipping mask for the Lady Liberty layer:

1.       Turn on the visibility for the Lady Liberty and Statue layers.

2.      Select the Lady Liberty layer and choose Create Clipping Mask from the Layers palette’s pop-up menu. (In Photoshop 7, choose Layer > Group with Previous; in CS, choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask.) The clipping mask icon appears in front of the thumbnail, as shown in Figure D.



3.    ...


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